Washington Law Against Discrimination

by ECL Writer
Filing Discrimination Claims in Washington State

Washington Law Against Discrimination – Discrimination is a serious issue that affects millions of people every day. Unfortunately, despite the progress that has been made in recent years, discrimination still exists in many forms. If you live in Washington state, however, there is a powerful tool available to you to help combat discrimination: the Washington Law Against Discrimination. This comprehensive law provides protection against discrimination in a wide range of areas, including employment, housing, and public accommodations. But what exactly does the Washington Law Against Discrimination entail? How does it work, and what are your rights under the law?

In this guide, Eastcoastlaws.com will take a deep dive into the Washington Law Against Discrimination, exploring its key provisions and explaining how you can use it to protect yourself and fight against discrimination in all its forms. So whether you’re an employer, a landlord, or an individual who has experienced discrimination firsthand, read on to learn everything you need to know about this important law.

What Is Discrimination Under WLAD?

A group of statutes, specifically RCW 49.60, is referred to as the Washington State Law Against Discrimination (sometimes referred to as WLAD), and it was created to safeguard people in the U.S. state of Washington from discrimination. Discrimination is the act of treating someone differently based on their membership in a protected class. In Washington state, the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) provides protection against discrimination in a wide range of areas, including employment, housing, and public accommodations. Under WLAD, it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on their race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, HIV/AIDS status, or use of a trained dog guide or service animal.

WLAD prohibits both intentional discrimination (also known as disparate treatment) and unintentional discrimination (also known as disparate impact). Intentional discrimination occurs when an employer, landlord, or business owner treats someone differently based on their membership in a protected class. Unintentional discrimination occurs when a policy or practice has a disproportionate impact on members of a protected class, even if there was no intent to discriminate.

WLAD also prohibits retaliation against someone who has opposed discrimination, filed a complaint, or testified in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit. Harassment based on a protected class is also prohibited under WLAD.

Protected Classes Under WLAD

Under WLAD, there are several protected classes that are specifically identified. These include race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, HIV/AIDS status, and use of a trained dog guide or service animal. It is important to note that WLAD protects all individuals within these classes, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status.

In addition to these specific protected classes, WLAD also prohibits discrimination based on any other characteristic that is protected under federal or state law, or that is recognized as a protected class by a court of law.

Types Of Discrimination Prohibited By WLAD

WLAD prohibits several different types of discrimination in a variety of areas. In employment, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee or job applicant in hiring, firing, promotions, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment based on their membership in a protected class.

In housing, it is illegal for a landlord or property manager to discriminate against a tenant or prospective tenant based on their membership in a protected class. This includes refusing to rent to someone, setting different rental terms or conditions, and providing different services or facilities.

WLAD also prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, which includes places like restaurants, hotels, and stores. It is illegal for a business owner or operator to discriminate against a customer based on their membership in a protected class.

What Legal Standards Govern The WSHRC?

  • Employer employs at least 8 people (religious organizations are excluded).
  • Within six months of the alleged discrimination’s final date, signed complaints must be filed.

What Are Prohibited Employment Practices?

According to the law, if someone is victimized because of their race, creed, color, national origin, sex, marital status, age (40+), disability, retaliation, sexual orientation or gender identity, status as an honorably discharged veteran or member of the military, or because they use a trained dog as a guide dog or service animal:

An Employer may not

(1) Rejecting the employment of an individual. (2) Terminating or excluding an individual from a job. (3) Engaging in discriminatory practices regarding compensation or other employment conditions. (4) Producing, distributing, or utilizing any discriminatory statement, advertisement, publication, job application form, or making any discriminatory inquiries in relation to prospective employment.

Employment Agencies may not

(1) Engage in discrimination when classifying or referring individuals for employment. (2) Publish or distribute any discriminatory statements, advertisements, or publications. (3) Utilize discriminatory employment application forms or engage in discriminatory inquiries related to prospective employment.

Who Is Protected From Employment Discrimination?

The law prohibits unfair employment practices based on the following factors:

  • Opposition to discriminatory practices.
  • Presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability.
  • Use of a trained dog guide or service animal.
  • HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C status.
  • Race/color.
  • Creed.
  • National origin.
  • Sex (including pregnancy).
  • Marital status.
  • Age (40 or older).
  • Sexual orientation, including gender identity.
  • Honorably discharged veteran or military status.
  • State employee or health care whistleblower status.

Proving Discrimination Under WLAD

Proving discrimination under WLAD can be challenging, but there are several ways to establish a claim. One way is to show that you were treated differently than someone outside of your protected class who was in a similar situation. For example, if you were denied a job or promotion based on your race, but someone outside of your race with similar qualifications was hired or promoted, you may have a claim for discrimination.

Another way to establish a claim is to show that a policy or practice has a disproportionate impact on members of a protected class. For example, if a company has a policy of requiring all employees to work on Saturdays, but this policy disproportionately affects employees who observe the Sabbath, this may be considered discriminatory.

If you believe you have been discriminated against, it is important to gather as much evidence as possible to support your claim. This may include witness statements, emails or other correspondence, and any other documentation that supports your case.

Retaliation And Harassment Under WLAD

Under WLAD, retaliation against someone who has opposed discrimination filed a complaint, or testified in a discrimination investigation or a lawsuit is illegal. This means that an employer, landlord, or business owner cannot take any adverse action against you for standing up against discrimination.

Harassment based on a protected class is also prohibited under WLAD. This includes any conduct that creates a hostile or intimidating environment based on your membership in a protected class. Harassment can take many forms, including verbal abuse, physical conduct, and visual or written materials.

Remedies For Discrimination Under WLAD

If you have been discriminated against under WLAD, there are several remedies available to you. These may include back pay, reinstatement, promotion, compensatory damages (for emotional distress, for example), and punitive damages (to punish the employer or business owner for their discriminatory conduct).

If you believe you have been discriminated against, it is important to file a complaint with the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) as soon as possible. You must file your complaint within one year of the discriminatory act. The WSHRC will investigate your claim and may issue a finding of discrimination. If the WSHRC finds that discrimination occurred, they may try to negotiate a settlement between you and the employer or business owner. If a settlement cannot be reached, you may be able to file a lawsuit in court.

Filing A Complaint Under WLAD And EECO

In Washington, a claim for discrimination may be made with either the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the state administrative agency, the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC). The two organizations work together to process claims under the terms of a “work-sharing agreement,” which the two agencies have. As long as you tell one of the agencies that you want it to “cross-file” the claim with the other agency, you don’t need to submit a claim to both agencies.

Some smaller employers that are not protected by federal law are covered by the Washington anti-discrimination statute. Because the EEOC enforces federal law, which only applies to firms with 15 or more employees, you should file with the WSHRC if your company has between 8 and 14 employees (or between 1 and 14 employees for wage discrimination allegations). Non-profit employers that are religious or sectarian are not covered by Washington law. The EECO is the proper place to file a complaint for employment discrimination if it involves less than 8 employees, Native American tribes, the federal government, religious employers, or claims where the harm occurred more than 6 months ago. You may file with either agency if your place of employment has 15 or more staff members.

It is not necessary to file with the WSHRC in order to bring a discrimination case in court. However, if you do not have legal representation, you might want to explore if the WSHRC can help you resolve your claim outside of court. Within six months of the day you believe you experienced discrimination, you must file a WSHRC complaint.

Get in touch with the relevant office listed below to submit a claim to the WSHRC. The WSHRC website contains more details regarding submitting a claim to the WSHRC.

Olympia Headquarters Office 
711 S. Capitol Way, #402 
P.O. Box 42490 
Olympia, WA 98504-2490 
Phone: (360) 753-6770 
Toll-free: (800) 233-3247 
TTY: (800) 300-7525 
Fax: (360) 586-2282 

Areas Served: Western Washington and the Olympics, including Pierce, Thurston, Clark, Lewis, Grays Harbor, and Kitsap Counties 

Seattle District Office
 
Melbourne Tower, #921 
1511 Third Avenue 
Seattle, WA 98101-1626 
Phone: (206) 464-6500 
Toll-free: (800) 605-7324 
TTY: (206) 587-5168 
Fax: (206) 464-7463 

Areas Served: Central and North Puget Sound, including King, Snohomish, Skagit, San Juan, Island, and Whatcom Counties

Spokane District Office 
Rock Point Plaza III
1130 N. Washington Street, Suite 2460
Spokane, WA 99201-1099 
Phone: (509)  568-3196
Fax: (509)  568-3197
Areas Served: Eastern Washington, including Spokane, Whitman, Okanogan, Lincoln, Ferry, and Stevens Counties 

Yakima District Office 
Liberty Building, # 422 
32 North Third Street 
Yakima, WA 98901-2730 
Phone: (509) 575-2772 
Fax: (509) 575-2064 
Toll Free: (800) 662-2755 (se habla espanol) 

Areas Served: Central Washington, including Yakima, Kittitas, Chelan, Benton, Walla Walla, and Klickitat Counties

  • Contact the EEOC office listed below to submit a claim. On the EEOC’s Filing a Charge page, you can get more details regarding submitting a claim.

EEOC — Seattle District Office 
Federal Office Building 
909 First Avenue, Suite 400 
Seattle, WA 98104-1061 
Phone: (206) 220-6883 
TTY: (206) 220-6882

People who have filed a complaint of discrimination can now check the progress of their accusation online thanks to a new EEOC web service. This tool offers a platform for sending and receiving documents as well as communicating with the EEOC, enabling quicker transmission times. In addition to allowing charged entities to have the same information on the charge’s status, those who have filed charges can obtain information about their charges whenever it is convenient for them. The Digital Charge System is now utilized by all EEOC offices.

What are my time deadlines?

Contact the WSHRC or EEOC right once to submit a claim. Charges of job discrimination must be brought within specific time frames. You must file with the WSHRC (or cross-file with the EEOC) within six months after the date you believe you were the victim of discrimination if you want the WSHRC to represent you. You have 300 days from the day you believe you were discriminated against to file with the EEOC (or cross-file with the state agency) in order to preserve a claim of discrimination under federal law.

Do not wait to file your claim until the time limit is almost out, though, as you might have other legal claims with shorter limitations. If at all possible, you might want to speak with a lawyer before submitting your claim. However, you do not need to have an attorney to submit your claim with the state and federal administrative bodies if you are unable to find one who will help you.

You might also want to inquire with your city or county to determine if the area where you reside and/or work has an anti-discrimination “ordinance.” There are organizations in some Washington counties and cities (including Seattle and Tacoma) that recognize claims made in accordance with local legislation and might be able to help you. Common names for these organizations include “Human Rights Commission,” “Human Relations Commission,” and “Civil Rights Commission.” For more information, consult your neighborhood phone book or the website of the government.

What Occurs After I Submit A Complaint To The EEOC?

The EEOC will provide you with a copy of the charge along with your charge number once it has been filed. The EEOC will also give the employer a notification and a copy of the charge within ten days. The EEOC may then choose to take one of the following actions:

  • Ask the employer to participate in a mediation program along with you.
  • Ask the employer to respond to your charge in writing and to any inquiries you have about your claim after which an investigator will look into it.
  • If your complaint was not submitted on time or the EEOC does not have jurisdiction, the claim should be dismissed.

The EEOC may conduct witness interviews and document collection if it decides to look into your complaint. They will inform you and the employer of the findings after the inquiry is over. If they determine that there was no prejudice, they will provide you a “Notice of Right to Sue.” You are authorized to bring a case in a court of law by this notification. The EEOC will attempt to seek a voluntary settlement with the employer if it finds that discrimination had place.

Your case will be forwarded to the EEOC’s legal team (or, in some circumstances, the Department of Justice), who will decide whether or not the organization should launch a lawsuit if a settlement cannot be reached. You will receive a “Notice of Right to Sue” if the EEOC decides not to bring a lawsuit.

The quantity of information that needs to be acquired and processed is just one factor that affects how long the inquiry takes. The EEOC investigates a charge in around 6 months on average. Through mediation, a charge can frequently be resolved more quickly (typically in about three months).

WLAD Vs. Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws

WLAD provides protection against discrimination in many of the same areas as federal anti-discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, there are some key differences between WLAD and federal law.

For example, WLAD protects additional classes that are not covered under federal law, such as sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. WLAD also has a broader definition of what constitutes a covered employer, which includes all employers with eight or more employees (compared to 15 or more employees under federal law).

It is important to note that if you have a claim under both WLAD and federal law, you may be able to pursue both claims simultaneously. This can provide additional remedies and protections for individuals who have experienced discrimination.

Conclusion

Discrimination is a serious issue that affects millions of people every day. Fortunately, the Washington Law Against Discrimination provides powerful protection against discrimination in a wide range of areas, including employment, housing, and public accommodations. Understanding your rights under WLAD is critical for both employees and employers, as it can help prevent discrimination and ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equally. If you believe you have been discriminated against, it is important to take action. Contact the Washington State Human Rights Commission to file a complaint and explore your options for seeking justice and holding those responsible accountable for their discriminatory conduct.

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